Ireland: ‘Remove FSC accreditation from Irish Forestry Certification Initiative’

FSC-Watch has reported many times on the FSC credibility disaster that has been allowed to persist in Ireland for nearly a decade. Tellingly, despite the glaring failures, neither the FSC Secretariat, ASI, the international Board nor the national initiative itself have had to competence to put ‘FSC Ireland’ onto a credible path. Unsurprisingly, local NGOs are now totally exasperated. Even some parts of the private sector that entered the FSC process in good faith are now de-camping to PEFC instead.

We have now been asked to post the following by several excluded Irish environmental and social stakeholders. We fully support their call for FSC Ireland to be completely scrapped, and the process restarted with proper multi-stakeholder input and balance. In order to give it a chance of success, we believe that the WoodMark-issued certificate of the state forestry company Coillte should be suspended and their influence expunged from the national FSC process.

FSC Ireland: An Honest Appraisal

The situation in Ireland as regards the whole FSC standard-setting process is now unquestionably an utter failure. The following list is no more than a summary of the problems currently plaguing the process. The details, if added, would simply make this posting so huge as to be near to unreadable.

Ireland’s National FSC Initiative, the Irish Forestry Certification Initiative (IFCI), have currently approximately euros 1,500 to their name. IFCI have no likely source of funding for 2008, and no guarantee for 2009. Their funding application for 2008 was refused due to the complete failure of IFCI to date.

There are reasons for this refusal of funding. After ten years, there is no national standard. The proposed ‘third draft standard’ was rejected out of hand by FSC. The previous ‘second draft standard’ was invalid for several similar reasons – not least that it did not even contain the FSC P&C.

As a result, after ten years there is not even a DRAFT national standard.

Certification, however, continues apace, but without any input whatever from any stakeholders at all.

Despite strenuous efforts on the part of the many, many NGOs and individuals outside IFCI, there is no open door to join.

Rather, many who show any real interest have been met with open hostility.

This hostility has included threats of legal action, witnessed by representatives of FSC itself, from certain members of the IFCI Steering Committee.

Within IFCI itself, there is absolutely no agreement on a way forward.

Despite great efforts which resulted, late in 2007, in Irish representatives and FSC meeting in Bonn, and creating an action plan which was given FSC approval as “the way forward”, there is still no consensus in IFCI in support of this plan.

Though FSC had provided encouragement and signs of interest in the Irish crisis during 2007, there is currently no indication that FSC can or will provide further assistance or the promised financial support.

Further, FSC has allegedly indicated that the hard work done in Bonn last year did not, actually, result in a plan of action, but merely one suggestion of a way forward.

IFCI has, as a result, proceeded to continue as before, essentially ignoring the Bonn initiative.

This, despite there being numerous unresolved issues, identified by FSC itself, within IFCI relating to: – membership – communications – chamber affiliation – organisational structure – organisational procedures – organisational process – standards development

There are also apparently unresolved issues about member groups exceeging the limit for terms on the Steering Committee, and several breaches of the company’s own Articles of Association, for which there are legal consequences.

If this were not enough to bury IFCI, and according to FSC rules it SHOULD be (though the group remains, paradoxically, the accredited National Initiative), the organisation’s membership numbers have fallen steadily over the years and are currently at about one fifth their original level, and probably lower.

On top of this there are numerous unresolved disputes and grievances both from within and without IFCI.

The organisation failed to address these in any way that has been acceptable to the people raising these issues and they were then raised with FSC.

FSC, however, refused to even consider them and suggested that stakeholders re-present them to IFCI.

The list goes on and on…

For example, IFCI has recently lost the membership of ITGA, the Irish Timber Growers’ Association, which is currently pursuing PEFC certification due in the main to the utter failure of IFCI and FSC to regulate and standardise certification in Ireland.

There is no indication that this key national forestry association has any intention of considering FSC certification again.

While still nominally hanging in there, Ireland’s largest environmental NGO is also on the verge of departing also.

This is an enormous list, considering we have not gone into any actual detail, just summarised the issues.

Taking a step back from this, away from the day-to-day struggles, and looking at it in the cold light of day, it is a near-perfect description of a disaster. One could hardly have planned it, it is so bad.

With this in mind, what exactly are people expecting to see happen that will make things better?

What exactly does FSC expect to happen that will turn this organisational abomination into something resembling a viable national initiative?

What exactly are IFCI’s own Steering Committee expecting to happen to provide the vast amounts of required credibility and remove the deep layers of suspicion and outright hostility that stand between many stakeholders and hopes of their involvement in IFCI?

None of the above issues are resolved. Most continue from over a year past, many for over five years.

Just looking at this coldly, we have to ask whether any effort at all to revive or rebuild or reinvigorate this organisation with the existing cast of main players, with or without fully-paid managers, is ever likely to do anything other than waste more time, money and effort.

That time is no longer available.

The money is no longer available.

The effort is available but the barriers to it being actualised are, it would seem, insurmountable.

Simply put… WHAT THE HELL WERE WE THINKING???

This is sheer madness.

The root cause, however, is simple and easily dealt with: FSC.

IFCI remain as the accreditied National Initiative for Ireland. FSC has refused to withdraw this accreditation.

The reason for this refusal is unknown, but we cannot see any feasible possibilities other than FSC’s need to be seen, internationally, to be taking the Irish Crisis in hand and dealing with it effectively.

Accepting that IFCI does not deserve accreditation AND acting on this would suggest a failure in Ireland, show that FSC has not resolved the problems.

Ireland is not in a position to wait any longer. After ten years of complete failure, there is no sign whatever that either IFCI or FSC are taking the urgency of the situation seriously. We simply cannot wait until 2009 or 2010 in the hope that things will change. They will not.

The solution is plain. The solution lies in the hands of FSC itself.

Remove the accreditation of IFCI.

Unless and until this is done, there will be no progress, no inclusion, no stakeholder input, no process. There will be no national standard.

The shameful mess of FSC involvement in this country will continue to hamper efforts by NGOs rather than assist them.

The shameful mess of FSC involvement in Ireland will continue to cast an ugly shadow across the reputation of FSC itself.

The shameful mess of FSC involvement in Ireland will, by extension, defile the reputation, credibility and hard work of FSC-accredited groups right around the globe.


Irish Social and Environmental Stakeholders

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